The future and the Internet

The internet is still very much in its infancy yet it has already demonstrated how rapidly technology and the free exchange of information has impacted on everyday life. The internet has provided a wealth of information that would have been near unattainable before search engines were able to effectively catalogue information on the internet.

You can now join more mailing lists than you will ever have time to read. There is an abundance of information on every topic and subject and you can spend hours on forums, chats or reading blogs. The internet has allowed networking and making new business relationships. Traditional means of advertising have been challenged by internet advertising which is one of the fastest growing industries.

Is it all a fad? Will the dot com bubble just burst again?

Many traditional businesses that have ignored the internet would certainly hope so.

Too many companies associate being online with selling online or publishing electronic versions of paper advertising and brochures and calling it a website. This is a failure of both corporations to the small business owner. A website is essential for providing detailed product and service information, for connecting your business to potential new customers who would otherwise never have found you. Corporations and business have assigned too few resouces - time, planning, research and money to building effective websites and are short sighted as to the potential benefits that the internet brings.

Selling online is next to useless unless you have a niche product and your website is search engine friendly. Most online e-commerce websites fail to have products indexed by Google, Yahoo or MSN because of poor programming and therefore fail to connect to the people that are looking for their product. With the competitive global economy, suddenly profit margins diminish, all the while e-commerce charges from merchant accounts, credit card facilities, insurance and website maintenance need to be paid for. The online dream of making lots of money with a good idea, is easily replicated, undercut and extinguished. Competition on the internet is fierce.

Not even Google is immune to competition. The pace of its competitors launching their own search engines is heating up and search engines are becoming more and more powerful. Finding information about any subject or any person will only get easier.

Another mistake of website owners is to produce a tacky brochure website full of cliches and badly taken photos.. Their website will suffer the fate of being relegated to the pile of webpage waste at the end of a search that returns 2 million website results and even if a new or existing customer came to visit - would they want to read pages of hype or general information

Despite this, the internet is here to stay. Why?

Search engines are quickly becoming a phone book, local directory, dictionary and library. If you want to find handmade guitars, beeswax candles, local chinese restaurant, organic sourdough bread, a website designer - where would you go? The yellow pages is bulky,you need to find the right subheading for the product and service and there is not much detail in listings, so that means you have to do quite a bit of ringing around and after all that running around you need to locate the business using a map. How easy is it to type in a search term followed by suburb, town or country and then compare products and services, click on a map and find out exactly where to go or order with a credit card and have goods delivered. Searches can be refined, to enable you to find specific items and services. The yellow pages search is outdated.

Websites are the new yellow pages. No longer is your company set along side other businesses under a common listing. People will be able to search specifically for the products and services that you offer, in a specific area.

Websites can link to company databases and provide up to date, minute by minute information. Not only can customers order only what is in stock but suppliers can also manage supply and demand.

Websites can be programmed to interface with PDA's and mobile phones. Endless possibilities here, from being able to send reminders to staff for meetings via sms to being able to look up information on company website from remote locations, to logging in and being kept abreast on stock levels, meetings, etc.

Of course, what happens to businesses that do not have a niche market, intellectual property or are price competitive for their area? They will simply disappear. Make no mistake, the internet and information technology has made survival of the fittest more intense. This is not a battle isolated to small businesses but affects all corporations and governments. E-commerce has made it easy to trade but at the same time, it is easy for companies to use the infrastructure of the internet to build off shore call centres, outsource workers and administration. Unfortunately, most Australians are ignorant of these changes choosing to lock themselves into excessive housing mortgages and paying extraordinary amounts to educate their children. Many jobs that are currently paying well, will inevitably be outsourced to foreign nations and the types of jobs available in the future will drastically change because of the efficiencies that software and computer technology will bring. So burdened by debt, without good paying jobs and children mortgaged to the hilt, suddenly that lump sum superannuation isn't stretching as far as it should.

On the positive side, free exchange of information means that people are becoming more socially, politically and environmentally aware. In a democratic society, this means that administrators and politicians are kept more accountable an educated population that is kept informed by the abundance of studies, websites and action groups, active on the internet.

Which is probably why, the Australian government is intent on filtering the internet through legislation. See Internet Filtering

The internet is a wealth of possibility from learning how to knit, to reading about the benefits of organic food and the dangers of fluoride, from learning repair your own car to enrolling in a distance education course, from meeting like minded people to exploring different cultures and places; the internet has both culture and crime, possibilities and pitfalls.

See The Social Impact of Technology